Book Reviews

In Strange Woods by Claire Cray

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Erotic Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 23-September-2020

Book Blurb

In the stormy coastal woods of the Pacific Northwest, roots run deep and passions run wild.

Reeling with grief and hounded by the press after the mysterious massacre of his wealthy family, moody New York photographer James Worthington Crane decides to take his downward spiral somewhere far away: to the rural Oregon Coast, where he’s just inherited a random piece of property hidden somewhere in the woods upriver.

But when James pulls into the decaying seaside town of Brooks, everyone thinks he’s someone else—an elusive local rebel named Beau. Now James must fight through his own grief to unravel a tangled web of family secrets, mysterious doppelgängers, and forgotten history...with help from a soft-spoken local hunk named Hunter Quaid.

Hunter’s been on his own since he left his fundamentalist family at the age of fifteen. It’s taken years of hard work and healing to build the steady, stable life he has now, fixing up seaside houses while living alone in a trailer by the river. Then James blows in like a winter storm, disturbing the peace and stirring up a hunger like nothing he's ever felt.

As Hunter helps James search for the truth, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways—and they begin to discover what it means to find out where you really belong.



From the author of Merrick and Hidden Talents comes a sensual and emotional story inspired by the rugged beauty and offbeat history of Pacific Northwest timber country. In Strange Woods moves through ancient old-growth forests, abandoned logging roads, ramshackle seaside towns, decaying homesteads, coastal highways, and the stories hidden in the trees.

Book Review

‘In Strange Woods’ is a difficult book to review. Be it the weather outside, or my current mood, this novel seems to have a hell of a passel of words – far more than reasonably expected by Kindle’s note of locations in the book. It sure is mighty dense (or if said less kind - copiously constructed). Nonetheless, while recommending ‘In Strange Woods’, I advise less attentive readers to freely skim from time to time.


Ms. Clay has a lovely taste for coloration, both in her use of descriptive language and, wisely, in her reference to colors. As an example of the latter, much of the earlier portions of this novel bring forth appropriate forest dark shades, blues and greens – only to brighten as the plot does. As to the former, see how nicely she opens: “It was the first of November and trees were supposed to be bare, but apparently that meant nothing to the towering evergreens that ruled the pacific Northwest.” There is also a gothic tone set as we are promptly presented with James’s backstory – the most recent, unsolved murder of his family in New York. How easy to imagine this all as a black-and-white film.


The main characters are introduced. First is Hunter, who saves James’s life in the early pages. “Long legs. Broad shoulders. Big hands.” who “reminded him of Kurt Cobain – if Kurt had traded heroin for a healthy diet and some weightlifting.” Any doubt that they are eventually going to have sex? Then there is a mix-up with Beau, James’s apparent doppelgänger. The number of secondary personae becomes a little overwhelming, but apparently necessary to the plot.


The erotic writing is excellent – starting with a simple but mandatory masturbatory exchange, and subsequently followed by fully realized colossal coital episodes. (More about those later!)


The mystery ploy thickens, as does the presentation. The story borders on the dark and complex, as one would expect from its bent towards the gothic – with unsolved murders, unexplained disappearances, unresolved familial connections, unrepentant criminals, ungenerous former lovers.


James and Hunter are hot together. As a salute to a sense of reality, they start slowly. “Hunter took a swig of his beer… Three days and a blowjob didn’t give him any rights.” But, in time: “Suddenly, they were at it like animals, grabbing and pulling at each other’s cloths in a frenzied effort to get naked as fast as possible.” If you take my suggestion and occasionally skim – do not skip the sex parts! Okay! As an act of politesse, I will stop quoting these tabasco-flavored portions of the text, but you should be advised that it is the verisimilitude of erotic physical passion and the dialog successful emulates the sound track of a cheesy gay porn flic. Well, just one more: “James woke up naked under warm sheets with a tender ass and a happy tranquil feeling.”


Thank you, Ms. Cray, for the late scene in the book, after what might be the dramatic denouement, in which the main characters sit around and recapitulate the important plot points. Sure made this reader feel much less stupid.


One for the road. As the novel ends, and the heroes once again demonstrate their sexual prowess, skipping from plot to groin. Imagine you can hear a soundtrack, perhaps the swelling of the Love-Death music from Tristan and Isolde. If you do, then, Ms. Cray has succeeded!





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Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 220 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 28-August-2020
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link